USA: Evanston officially starts its search for a developer interested in building an offshore wind facility

The team that prepared the RFI is encouraged by the potential of a local wind farm, said Carolyn Collopy, the city’s sustainable programs coordinator. Still, she said a wind project would need careful planning from a developer before it could move forward.

“We’ve done some research, and it seems that offshore the wind is good and could potentially be a good source of energy,” Collopy said. “Whether or not a developer is going to see it that way is another question.”

According to the RFI, city staff believe the best spot for a wind farm would be between six and nine miles into Lake Michigan, directly east of Northwestern. A diagram of the site appears to show 40 wind turbines covering an area of approximately 1.5 square nautical miles.

The RFI comes after about two years of research by Citizens for a Greener Evanston into a possible offshore wind project. Even with the current momentum, a long process lies ahead, said Nate Kipnis, co-chair for CGE’s Renewable Energy Resources Task Force.

“This is promising, but it’s the first of many steps,” Kipnis said. “There are many more hoops to jump through.”

The effort comes at a key time for wind energy supporters, Kipnis said. Recent mining disasters and last week’s massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico have highlighted the limitations and dangers of traditional energy sources, he said.

In addition, the U.S. Department of the Interior approved plans last week for a wind farm off the shore of Cape Cod in Massachusetts. The Cape Wind project is the first American offshore wind facility to win federal approval.

Several countries in Europe already have wind farms, and Kipnis said he expects most of the developers who respond to Evanston’s RFI will be European.

In a recent interview with The Daily, University President Morton O. Schapiro said he “absolutely” supports using renewable energy sources, including wind power.

“Unless someone shows me that it’s not really good for the environment, I’ve always been a major supporter of wind energy,” Schapiro said.

In a letter to The Daily, Evanston North Shore Bird Club’s vice president, Libby Hall, asked the city to research how wind turbines could affect the flight patterns of local birds and lifestyles of ducks who live in the lake. She also suggested looking into ways to minimize collisions between birds and the turbines.

As part of the RFI released Saturday, the city asked developers to look into “operational curtailment due to bird migration,” as one item in a long list of topics to research.

In addition to environmental concerns about Cape Wind, some opponents of the Massachusetts project object to its visual impact as well. Asked for his thoughts on a wind farm that would be visible from NU, Schapiro said he would not oppose it on aesthetic grounds.

“This ‘not in my backyard’ thing I’ve never really been a big proponent of, especially if it’s really functional, green, aesthetically pleasing,” Schapiro said. “Then I think you’ll want it in your backyard.”

Once the city reviews the general proposals submitted by developers, it will determine if and how to move forward with an offshore wind project.


Source: dailynorthwestern, May 05, 2010;